Story by Courtney Pollock on 03/22/2019The old adage goes, "with leadership comes great responsibility." This is a sentiment that Senior Chief Machinery Repairman Tarah Horney does not take lightly. As the most senior female in her rate Navy-wide, she strives daily to lead from the front.
"I try and lead by example," she explains. "I want to ensure that my words don't contradict my actions because that is the biggest thing that will erode any credibility I might have."
Horney, from Moses Lake, Washington, currently serves as 3MC, or maintenance, material and management coordinator, and plans & tactics departmental leading chief petty officer (DLCPO) aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) stationed in Rota, Spain.
"My primary duty is to manage the maintenance program for the ship and train the crew and officers on all aspects of properly performing and documenting both corrective and preventive maintenance," she said.
As 3MC, Horney is the technical expert aboard Carney on how to coordinate, schedule, conduct and document maintenance done throughout the ship. She also provides training, both formal and informal, to her Sailors as well as guidance.
"There is usually a line of people at my office door or on the phone asking for guidance," she explained, but emphasized that is what it takes to support and lead Sailors.
"I work hard to stay knowledgeable, both with my primary duties and general Navy information because I can't train or guide my Sailors if I am not an expert in my field or in the Navy as an organization," Horney said. "The day Sailors stop asking me questions or stop asking for advice, is probably the day I need to hang it up for good."
Horney's Navy experience has prepared her for this position. After joining the Navy in 2002, she was sent to machinery repairman "A" school before reporting to her first duty station aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) for five years. As a plank owner, she was there for the commissioning of Reagan in addition to circumventing South America to the ship's first homeport of San Diego, California. Reagan is now forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.
Additional duty stations included detailing in Millington, Tennessee and advanced machinery "C" school in Portsmouth, Virginia where she was selected for chief petty officer. Horney then returned to sea duty aboard Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67) in Yokosuka, Japan before reporting to Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC) in Mayport, Florida.
Shortly after arriving to SERMC, Horney picked up senior chief making her the most senior female in her rate. Horney described it as "a humbling experience and an honor to advance."
Picking up senior chief also meant a high probability that she would fill a 3MC billet in the near future since the rate is small and only senior chiefs and master chiefs qualify for 3MC billets.
While she enjoyed the work she did at SERMC, she was excited to return to sea duty.
"Shore duty almost always leaves me itching to get back to sea," she said. Horney and her wife wanted to go to Spain so when a hot-fill billet opened up a year earlier than her rotation date, she jumped on the opportunity.
"Literally being at the tip of the spear, in the mix of things, is where I prefer to be," she said. "We have no doubt, being here and doing the missions we do, that we are doing important work and can see firsthand why a strong Navy is so important to national security. I go to work every day knowing that what I do is important and our training is more poignant knowing we could actually have to use it out here."
The positions of 3MC and plans & tactics DLCPO has required significant growth for Horney outside her immediate department. The biggest challenges were viewing decisions from a command level and focusing on the "big picture."
"Both of those things helped me to be a better leader and to ensure decisions I made were the best for our mission-at-large and for the development of all our Sailors at the command," she said.
While she has plenty of administrative duties aboard Carney, she enjoys training and leading her Sailors most and uses it as motivation to continually push herself. Horney described leadership as a journey, which you approach ready to learn from successes and mistakes.
"I can say that I've learned more from the things I've done wrong than I have from things I've done right," Horney explains. "Embrace adversity and the difficult moments and use them as lessons, as ways to become better, then you're on the path for success."
She has learned a lot about leading others over her time in the Navy. As plans & tactics DLCPO, she works with chiefs and division officers to oversee several departments to ensure that they are meeting the objectives of the mission and performing well.
"My favorite part of the job is the interaction with the Sailors and pushing them to be better," said Horney. "I also enjoy advocating for them during Sailor of the Quarter boards, evaluation rankings, awards boards, etc. We have some outstanding Sailors and it is my job to make sure every Sailor is properly recognized for their performance."
Excelling in her field has been essential to her success. "If you are the best at what you do, it doesn't matter if someone doesn't personally like you, you will be called on to get the mission accomplished," said Horney.
Horney provides all her Sailors the support and guidance they need but hopes that young female Sailors seeing her in a leadership position will serve as encouragement that they too can be successful in this organization.
"I think the Navy, in general, has developed an environment where everyoneregardless of gender, race, etccan be successful as long as they are willing to work," said Horney.
Carney, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain is forward-deployed in support of U.S. national security interests in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.